Sunday, July 14, 2019

"Comparison is the thief of joy," said Teddy Roosevelt. He was right.

The writing life is hard in all sorts of ways. And sometimes we make it even harder on ourselves.

2019 Forest of Reading Red Maple Fiction Nominees on stage at Harbourfront.

Confession: I am a very competitive person. And not always in a good way.

Ask my high school basketball coach, who watched me foul out of more games than anyone should. ("But Coach, she pushed me, so I pushed back..."). Ask my relatives about family card games and my outbursts of frustration (which I will not quote here). Ask my curling buddies about why I moved myself from the competitive to the recreational league (answer: for the benefit of all involved).

So when I scroll through my social media feeds or media outlets and see book lists (that don't include me) or festival line-ups (that don't include me) or review sites (that don't include me) or bookstores (that don't include me) or testimonials from readers, librarians, teachers, other writers (that don't include me), I become that teary kid, nose pressed up against the glass, whispering: "Hey guys? Pick me! Can I play too?"

It's a bad thing for a writer to be that competitive, because it's toxic, at least it is for someone programmed to compete, as I am. Comparing the success of others to my own goals and accomplishments poisons not only my creative process, but also the joy of achieving something that I battled for (yes, it took me 35 years to break in... and here's a small selection of my rejections to demonstrate):

**WARNING** Shameless Self-Promotion follows...

In fact, I've had some successes and I've made some lists: Skating Over Thin Ice was nominated for the Forest of Reading 2019 Red Maple Fiction Award and named to the USBBY 2019 Outstanding International Books List. My new book, Larkin on the Shore, popped up on a "coming this fall" blog. All thrilling! But when I look around, my inner competitive voice kicks in: "Yes, okay, but...".

So I'm working hard to embrace the words of Teddy Roosevelt: "Comparison is the thief of joy."

I'm happy for you all, writing colleagues out there filling my socials with your success. I really am. We're in this writing life together and I'm happy to be on this journey with you.

Keep up the good work, writing/books/media sites, who celebrate and promote our creative efforts and successes.

But now I need to turn away from that window, dry my silly tears, and be joyful about my own writing. Because in the end, that's why I've embraced the writing life: it brings me joy.

And I'm not going to let any thief - especially one that my own competitive spirit has allowed to creep in - steal that from me.

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